Last updated on: February 13th, 2024

History Of Sports Betting In The USA

Sports are so often about breaking records and passing torches. To that end, because the passage and implementation of PASPA were for so long deemed the most impactful event in the history of American sports betting, it makes a kind of ironic sense that PASPA’s Supreme Court overturn now holds that lofty distinction. Indeed, the elimination of PASPA is the most watershed moment in the history of US sports betting, as it has allowed an incredible, mostly-underground industry to leap back into the public eye and occupy the public consciousness.

PASPA was relegated to the trash-heap of history on May 14, 2018, and within just six months, seven states rolled out their own sports betting industries to go along with the established market in Nevada. The history of sports betting started with these states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New Mexico – and there are now over 30 states with legal sports betting with regulations from local gaming commissions. Most industry analysts and political insiders believe that within just a few short years, nearly 80 percent of all US states will have some form of legal, state-sanctioned sports betting product on offer for their residents and visitors.

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History Of Sports Betting In The USA Before The 20th Century

The history of gambling started in the early 19th century with betting on horses. But, it was with the establishment of professional baseball in 1876 that traditional sports betting came to the forefront. By 1877 gambling influenced the games, as the Louisville Grays were throwing games. During this time, the attitude toward sports betting was lax, viewed as entertainment. There were even baseball pool cards similar to sportsbooks’ parlays. An article from the Washington Post in 1894 stated the following about Cap Anson, then-manager of the Chicago Colts:

“Uncle Anson has already started making wagers on the position the Chicago Colts will have in the race for the National League Pennant next year. He put up $100 a few days ago that his team would finish higher up in the race than the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

This goes to show how acceptable betting on sports was during the era, as in current times a manager would never be able to bet on his team. (Just ask Pete Rose!) It was not until 25 years later that the first major sports betting scandal occurred.

History Of Sports Betting In The USA During The 20th Century

After the turn of the century, sports betting was more popular than ever. But, the Chicago Black Sox scandal brought its unfettered professional participation to a halt. Eight players on the Chicago White Sox received bribes to throw the 1919 World Series, casting a dark shadow over sports betting. Regardless, as the history of sports betting in the USA during the 20th century shows, sports betting continued to grow. During the Great Depression, football pool cards were in high demand due to the perception of quick, easy cash.

Though sports betting was prevalent, it was unregulated at this time. But, with no sports betting laws and a lack of attention from law enforcement, it remained commonplace. It was in 1931 that Nevada legalized gambling. Various New York crime families filled this vacuum nationwide, offering sports wagering in US states. The participation of the mob in sports betting led to the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. This forced sports wagering to become a local thing or pushed underground. With this, Las Vegas became viewed as the only legitimate place to bet on sports in the US.

Taxing Sports Betting

Betting on sports was not big business in Nevada until the 1970s. It was during this time that Congress lowered the 10% tax on sports bets. Within a few years, more states moved toward legalizing sports betting.

  • In 1976, Delaware sports betting began with their sports lottery.
  • The Oregon Sports Action parlay game came in 1989.
  • Montana’s Lottery, created by a voter referendum in 1986, offered sports pools and fantasy sports.

As more states started to consider legalizing sports betting, the more concerned Congress grew. This prompted the government to find a legal means to stop sports betting across America. To achieve this, lawmakers wrote and enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA banned sports betting in the United States, except for the four states above. As Nevada was the online state with true sports betting, it became the US’s monopoly. Of all the moments throughout the history of sports betting in the USA, the passage of PASPA had the biggest impact. It would continue to limit public access until the Supreme Court overturned it in 2018.

History Of Las Vegas Sports Betting

US sports betting history begins when Las Vegas opened its first official sportsbook. Called “turf clubs” at the time, they started accepting wagers in 1949. However, there was plenty of illegal sports betting going on in the city before then. Fun fact about the history of sports betting in the USA: “juice” or “vigorish”/”vig” started in Vegas. When the first Nevada sportsbooks opened, books would pay 10% of their earnings to the casino. The sportsbooks’ way of making up for this money was to charge a “vigorish” on any bet placed. That is why you have to pay juice to this day.


History Of Modern Sports Betting In The USA

When you fast forward to the 21st century, sports betting in the US looks different than it did. Now, sports bettors are able to bet on every sport imaginable. Though introduced over 50 years ago, the point spread now has a variety of straight and exotic wagers. Also, the Internet changed how betting on sports became more accessible for sports fans. In the early 2000s, online sportsbooks began appearing all over the US market. No matter where a bettor was, they would be able to find Vegas-style sports betting action from their home.

Stopping Online Sports Betting

Just as the spread of sports betting signaled the US government to step in and stop expansion, the same occurred with online sports betting. In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was stealthily included as part of the larger SAFE Port Act. The SAFE Port Act was concerned with port security, making the UIGEA a completely unrelated law in the grand scheme. Signed into law on October 13, 2006, by President George W. Bush, the UIGEA is an act that prevents certain payment instruments for online gambling transactions. The FDIC requires certain US financial institutions to monitor and restrict certain designated payment systems that include credit cards, checks, and wire transfers. The law does not make online sports betting illegal. Nor does it punish bettors in any way. But, the UIGEA did cause many online sports betting sites to leave the US market.

Still, there are plenty of sports betting sites that safely serve USA sports bettors. Sites are offshore, in locations like Costa Rica and Panama where remote gaming is legal. These sites hold licenses and accept US players even without being in the States. As they operate outside of US jurisdiction, they are free to post odds, accept wagers, and send fast sportsbook payouts to Americans.

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The United States And It’s Evolving History With Legal Sports Betting

39 of the 50 states have some form of legal sports betting market, including Washington DC. Some of these states with sports betting have not yet launched their industries. But, most have. Legalized in over half of the US, the biggest sports betting events in 2023 are taking in a lot of action. ​ At this rate, it’s likely about 43-45 states will offer sports betting before 2027. States like Idaho, Hawaii, and Utah openly stated their lack of desire to regulate sports betting. Still, sports betting is seeing history in the making elsewhere in the United States.

The Future Of Sports Betting In The USA

Sports are so often about breaking records and passing torches. In 2018, seven states legalized and launched sports betting. But now, dozens of states have legalized and taxed local sportsbooks. Even a global pandemic was unable to prevent the amount of money bet on sports in the US from slowing down. Sports betting is an excellent industry for generating tax revenue. Earning sports betting revenue is a fast and easy way to increase taxes while covering budget shortfalls. Modifying regulations is the next step for US sports betting. Here, it will determine how states can benefit the most from the activity.

How Will Sports Betting Look Years From Now?

Sports betting has changed immensely since its start in the dark shadows. The beginnings of a real market occurred using newspapers and word of mouth. Now, Twitter and TikTok hold thousands of “expert” handicappers. Because everyone is on their phone, brick and mortar sportsbooks may seem futile. Already, sportsbooks take in over 90% of action from a phone or computer. Technology and modernization will continue to take over the industry. Aside from kiosks similar to Redbox terminals, it will be rare to see ticket takers at casinos. The history of sports betting reflects the future in the opposite. What was underground it now loudly explained and what was in person is now online.

Sportsbooks Trusted In The US

There are a handful of online sportsbooks trusted over the history of sports betting in the US. These books are secure for all US players and have a variety of bonuses and deposit methods. With no apps to download, these mobile sportsbooks for US players take bets from any smart device.

  • Bovada – Taking Super Bowl Wager From US Player Since 2011
  • BetOnline – Taking Super Bowl Wagers From US Players Since 2004
  • MyBookie – Taking Super Bowl Wagers From US Players Since 2014
  • SportsBetting – Taking Super Bowl Wagers From US Players Since 1998
  • Xbet – Taking Super Bowl Wagers From US Players Since 2013

The History Of Betting On The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl started with the first-ever Big Game taking place in 1967. The event became the number-one sports game in the US. Attracting millions of sports bettors, most states now offer odds for Super Bowl betting. But, online sportsbooks have always been the primary place where Super Bowl betting takes place. Many markets offer Super Bowl odds throughout the year. Aside from the entirety of March Madness betting, the Super Bowl is the largest betting event of the year. Talk about a major boost to the history of gambling in the US!

History of Sports Betting FAQs

How Long Have Legal Online Sports Betting Websites Been Around?

Legal online sports betting websites have been operating for over two decades now. They became extremely popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s at the same time that the internet became a dominant part of our daily lives. While many of the domestic sites ceased operation in 2006, offshore online sportsbooks have continued to serve Americans since their inception over 20 years ago.

Why is Casino Gambling Legal In My State And Not Sports Betting?

The reason mainly stems from federal restrictions on sports betting. PASPA was first signed in 1992 and it banned any state from legalizing sports betting until it was repealed in 2018. Because the legislative process takes time, states are only just now slowly considering and enacting new provisions for this activity.

Why Was Nevada The Only State Able To Offer Legal Sports Betting?

Nevada opened the first legal sportsbook back in 1949. When PASPA was put into place in 1992, Nevada was essentially grandfathered into the law because it already had its own rules in place for sports betting. Other states like Montana, Oregon, and Delaware were also grandfathered into the law but only Nevada had traditional single-game wagering.

When Did Sports Betting Become Available To Other States?

States outside of Nevada first became able to legalize sports wagering after PASPA was repealed by the US Supreme Court in May of 2018. Since then 17 states have taken the initiative to pass a sports betting bill and sign it into law. Many other states considered the topic during their last legislative session but did not pass a bill. They are expected to do it again, especially now that neighboring states have an edge in their gambling industry.

When Will Legal Sports Betting Come To My State?

Because of the repeal of PASPA, legal sports betting can come to your state whenever the state lawmakers pass the legislation. In some states, it may just be more realistic than others. States like Utah have a state culture and view of sports betting that probably will not allow for a law to be passed any time soon. States like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia have recently legalized sports betting and are having to wait for it to officially launch in the state. Voters have to approve the legislation, so if you vote you would know if your state is next.

If Sports Betting Is Not Regulated In My State, How Do I Place Bets?

Even if you live in a state where sports betting has yet to be legalized, you can still bet on sports online using any of our recommended online sportsbooks. These websites are all located outside of the jurisdiction of US law and are therefore only regulated by the countries in which they are located. These websites are completely legitimate, safe, legal to use for US residents.

Who Invented Sports Betting?

Sports betting lovers everywhere can give a nod to the Greeks’ when it comes to the history of wagering on sports and how it was invented over 2,000 years ago. It was the Greeks’ that created the Olympics and with that came gambling on the competitions that took place at the Olympic events. From there, betting on sports spread like wildfire to Rome where it would become a legal activity and then slowly around the globe. Now the United States, while doing it for quite some time in the shadows, has acknowledged sports betting and states have begun legalizing the industry as of 2018 after the repeal of PASPA.

Why Was Sports Betting Made Illegal To Begin With In The United States?

It started with horse racing in the early 1900s and moved onto other sports like baseball and football in the 1960s when the entire subject of gambling on sports was made illegal. It wasn’t because of problem gambling being an issue or addictive behaviors, although they are one in the same usually. It was due to the integrity of the event taking place. People believed that if money were to be wagered on horses or other sports that the jockeys and the athletes would throw races or games to fall in the direction of big bets. They’d be swayed by high rollers to do this and that threat was too much for the sports world to accept making sports betting an illegal pastime in most of the United States for years.